Get rid of Managers!!!

Hi guys, this blog post is the result of a chat that I had with a friend of mine today. He called me asking for an advice about team leaders within scrum teams. Right after we booked a dinner, I understood that this is a very interesting topic that cannot be discussed over the phone :D :D

As soon as we met, he told me that his company decided to insert Team Leaders in his teams. I just smiled because I knew what was coming. So I asked:

“What is the biggest reason behind this? Why did you think about this strategy?”
He explained they feel they spend too much time with 1:1’s and performance reviews not allowing them to focus on their jobs. Afterwards I asked: “Ah, so you think that getting people to do what you do not want to do is a better way to improve the company as a whole?”
He seemed a bit embarrassed and continued:

“No, it´s not about us, this is a better way to give more attention to people and help them to improve themselves and their career development plan”. I reacted to this as following:

“What factors do you have in your possession that lead you to think that a manager knows better what a person needs for his improvement than the person itself?” He did not really know what I meant so I explained:

“Managers think they know the best what people need in order to develop their skills, but in reality is the person that knows where are her/his strengths and where to ask for a support, not other way around!” Then he said:
“Yes but we need to have a person within the team that has an overview how people perform because HR demands to have an annual performance review”. My immediately thought was:

“Ah, it comes from HR! Performance Reviews Of course!!!!” I just told him that perhaps it is time to rethink their way of management. I asked if he really believes that annual performance reviews bring any value to employees !!! He replied:

“I do not think it brings much of the value but we need to know how people perform in order to distribute bonus, salary increases and all perks. So I replied:

“Ok makes sense, but if you are trying to empower teams to be independent, why not delegate that to them?” Naturally, he was shocked! :)
“Let me explain: you, as a manager, you have your budget, you know how much money you can spend on salary increase, why don’t you talk with the team and give the constraints to them.” For example:

“Tell them that you have 10% of budget increase to be distributed within the team. Ask them who deserves what and allow team to decide that. They are the ones knowing who performed the best! We do not need any manager or HR person saying what percentage they deserve! In our companies, we are trying to reward a success as a team but what you do is destroying a team spirit.” Take this example:

“Imagine that you, as line manager, set objectives for a developer to develop his JAVA skills. Imagine that during the development process ,the team needs his strong skills in scripting to solve some problems they have. The team as a whole was able to deliver fantastic results but you will rate this guy as a poor performer because he did not developed any skills in JAVA!!!! Do you see where am I going?” He replied:

“Uh, you are so right! I cannot imagine the face of the poor guy that will get a really crappy review whereas in reality he did a fantastic job to help the team”.
“Exactly!!! You should empower the team to take their own decisions. The same applies for training and bonus. Ask the team what perks does each team member deserves. This is a complete radical approach, so I am not asking you to do it in whole organisation, instead, try it in a small team and see the results. Learn, change and adapt. The old way of management is outdated and obsolete. One of the big problems is that we are implementing agile in our organisations but we forget other part of the organisation still uses old policies that ruin the work that we are trying to achieve”. He was completely surprised with the outcome of our conversation. I guess he expected something else but I think I succeeded because he promised that he would give it a thought about it.

In a conclusion, the title of my post does not mean that we should get rid of managers. Instead, we should get rid of managers´ job role. We are dealing with super intelligent people that do not need some random person telling them how they need to do their jobs and most importantly, suggesting what they need to improve as professionals.

If you want to know more about companies that are adopting a NoManager approach take a look here and here. Do you know any other organizations that are doing the same? Share with me.

“We need more leaders in our companies and less managers!”

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Get rid of Managers!!!
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Leave a Comment

    • Marko
    • December 9, 2013

    I know one company that built a new organization. Scope of the org was to build totally new product. The way org was built was that there were no managers, e.g. no test managers. How was it? I do not know all the details, but they were NEVER able to deliver any product out. I heard that whole org was totally messed up. What they succeed was to give there PROMISES to deliver and they ended up to burn millions/100s of millions (euros) until top management shut down whole org.
    Maybe there were not right people, I do not know, but they never delivered anything to get even one cent money back of the investment.

    IMO it is a STUPID manager, if he tries to think alone what is best for the individual without discussing with employee. So, we should get rid of STUPID managers, but that is different to “no managers at all”.

    • Mariusz
    • November 30, 2013

    I refer to this :“Imagine that you, as line manager, set objectives for a developer to develop his JAVA skills. Imagine that during the development process ,the team needs his strong skills in scripting to solve some problems they have. The team as a whole was able to deliver fantastic results but you will rate this guy as a poor performer because he did not developed any skills in JAVA!!!! Do you see where am I going?” He replied ….
    But what with opposite situation if the developer has as individual great evaluation but the team really sucks … After all he cannot be rated high ….. I mean having an outstanding evaluator (the manager) could have been completely false to developer effective performance within the team

    • Tomek Gajek
    • November 7, 2013

    Luis, how about we look at performance reviews as retrospectives but not of the process of developing software but of actions team members take on when working on developing this software. Is this analogy appropriate? Performance reviews, if done properly, are honest conversations between a leader / manager and his / her employee on how this employee is performing it work and what he can do to improve it further. It’s really interesting for me how you, a strong supporter of continuous improvement and honest feedback when it is applied to the process, don’t see value of applying a similar process to people. Especially when we value more individuals and interactions over processes and tools ;)

      • Szymon Wyrwiak
      • November 30, 2013

      IF performance reviews, is done properly.. this magic world IF. Sadly from my personal experience it`s not always done in this way. One time person who try to give me some “grades” have no clue what I`m doing (and did said it to me). Lack of transparency causes motivation problems for others and kills team spirit. I agree that team and organization need some level of maturity to perform in that way, if not then reviews can turn to some carrot and stick game.

    • Gerard Chiva
    • November 5, 2013

    Interesting conversation and powerful questions Luis. I’ll keep them for my toolbox :-P

    • Reply

      Hahaha thanks :) Actually he said that :D where the hell did you get those questions? :D

  1. Reply

    I don’t think the solution to the management problem is to get rid of management – but it is to spread management to all parts of the organization and let all people take a part of the management responsibility – so actually it’s about more management, but not tied to specific persons or roles. You need to solve problems that happen within the team and you need to coordinate different team efforts and you need to point at the common vision and goals that the company should achieve. And this can be done by managers or by other people, but somebody has to arrange for these other people to take this rsponsibility and if things don’t work out well, make adjustments. So the more selforganisation you have the better, given the the team has the competence to take the responsibility. If not – you need to give them the tools and knowledge to improve and then try again.

    • Reply

      Hi :)

      Quite good points ;) i am aligned with you. On my post I speak about traditional management :). What you suggested sounds good.


    • Audra Morelock
    • November 4, 2013

    Agree: In the spirit of Agile, you adapt the policies. Based on my experience, developers and team members do not necessarily know their strengths and weaknesses. I also know that the best team members want to have feedback on their performance so they can be better. I would suggest implementing a 360 review where you send out a start/stop/continue to stakeholders (manager, team, business units/customers and other people who interact with your team) to provide feedback on the person. I have done this in the past as well as provided that feedback anonymously to the person and they really appreciated it. I would also say that managers sometimes see things differently that everyone else and their evaluation of the person is also very valuable so I wouldn’t discount their opinions just because they are the manager/team leader.

    • Reply

      Hi Audra. Thanks for your feedback :). I have a more radical approach. I think anything related with performance reviews is not so beneficial. There are several books about it. If you want I can point them out. If people wants to get feedback go ahead, but imposing something to them is not the way.

      Myself I send surveys, 360 feedback and some other tools. I am a coach and I want to know how can I help more and more my teams… But imposing performance reviews to people I do not think is the way :)

      The post was not much about Performance reviews but was more to answer your comment.


        • Szymon Wyrwiak
        • November 30, 2013

        Hey Luis. Maybe you can point these books here ;)

  2. Reply

    In my (limited) experience you can’t adopt agile for software development and let the rest of the organisation continue to operate in a hierarchical way, so you are quite right to challenge everything, including HR policies. The most significant idea of agile is not that developers work on small tasks in short sprints, or that teams stand up during their meetings! It’s the idea that the organisation lets the team make their own decisions within certain defined parameters. That’s a very difficult change of attitude for most organisations.

    • Reply

      Thanks David. I fully agree. Its much more than development :). Its development, HR, Finance, Sales. etc etc etc :) I am fully aligned with you.

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